Munda - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Most Munda are agriculturalists; increasingly, permanent irrigated sites are replacing the traditional swiddens. The other main traditional occupation is hunting and gathering, with which the Birhor and some Korwa are particularly associated, though all groups participate in these activities to some extent to supplement their agriculture. Today, however, government policy is to preserve the remaining forests, which are now much depleted, and this policy militates against both of the traditional forms of economic activity. The result is an increase in irrigated land and the development of other sources of income, such as working in the tea plantations of the northeast, in mining, in the steel industry, etc., in the Ranchi-Jamshedpur area, or working as day laborers for local Hindu landowners.

Industrial Arts. Some groups, low castes rather than tribes, have a traditional artisan or other specialist occupation (e.g., the Asur are ironworkers, the Turi are basket makers, the Kora are ditch diggers, etc.). Some Birhor make and sell ropes. Generally, though, Hindu artisans supply most of the tribes' needs.

Trade. Few Munda live by trade, though they may occasionally sell forest products or some rice to wholesalers. The Birhor obtain their rice by selling ropes and forest products, and some Korwa, Turi, and Mahali sell their basketwork in local markets.

Division of Labor. Both men and women work in the fields, but the domestic burdens fall more on the women; many occupations (e.g., plowing, roof repair) are barred to them for ritual reasons. Men hunt; women gather. Specialist occupations are mainly men's work.

Land Tenure. Swiddens are normally owned by the dominant descent group in the village, though coresident nonmembers are usually granted access; the individual normally has use rights only while he cultivates. Irrigated land tends to be individually or family owned, primarily because of the extra labor involved in building terraces and irrigation ditches.

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